From chestnuts roasting on an open fire to yuletide carols being sung by a choir, we all have our own special activities and traditions we participate in for the holidays. Around my house growing up, there were always Christmas cookies to be made… by the hundreds!
I was fortunate enough to grow up in a house that had a ton of kitchen space after my Mom & Dad and the rest of the family pitched in and put an addition onto our century home in Olmstead Falls Ohio. One of the greatest features of the new kitchen was this huge butcher block island that was big enough for all of us to prepare food on together… and at Christmastime it became cookie central.
I remember the sights and smells and tastings (of course) that accompanied the making of these delicious holiday treats. My Mom and others in the family still continue the cookie making, though on a smaller scale now that we have all moved away from one another… my niece stopped by this morning with gifts for us and – you guessed it, a tin of homemade cookies for us to enjoy. Sweet!
And here they are – yum!
So now, just in time for a last minute gift or a treat for your own family… our holiday gift to you – the recipes for three of our family’s favorites. Pecan nut tarts, snowballs, and date nut pinwheels.
Pecan Nut Tarts
3 ounces cream cheese softened, 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon butter softened, 1 cup sifted flour, 1 egg, 3/4 cup brown sugar firmly packed, 1 teaspoon vanilla, dash salt, 2/3 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 325F. Thoroughly combine cream cheese the 1/2 cup butter & flour. Cover and chill for 1 hour. Divide dough into 24 small balls; press into the bottom and up the sides of two mini muffin tins (no greasing the pans required). Combine egg, brown sugar, vanilla, salt & remaining butter. Beat until smooth. Sprinkle 1/3 cup pecans equally into 24 tart shells. Divide egg mixture equally among the 24 tarts – pouring on top of pecans. Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup pecans on top of tarts.
Bake 20-25 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.
2 sticks of butter, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans, 1 cup powdered sugar
*Notes – If dough is too dry and crumbles 1 beaten egg can be added, if dough seems too wet add an extra tablespoon or two of flour.
Melt butter in saucepan over medium high heat and add chopped pecans. Continue cooking and stirring until butter starts to turn brown (around 3 minutes). Gently stir frequently to prevent the nuts from burning. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl. Refrigerate until mixture is fully cooled – around 30 minutes usually.
Heat oven to 350°F. Using an electric mixer, combine cooled pecan mixture and granulated sugar in a large bowl. Add vanilla, and cinnamon. Reduce speed and gradually add flour, mix on low until a crumbly dough forms. If dough seems too wet, add an extra tablespoon or two of flour.
Roll dough into 1 1/2-inch size balls. Place balls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for about 12-15 minutes or until cookies turn slightly golden brown. Remove from oven and roll quickly in powdered sugar. Place on racks to cool.
Date Nut Pinwheels
Filling Ingredients: 2 cups chopped pitted dates, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 cup water, 1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (you can use either walnuts or pecans)
Dough Ingredients: 1 cup unsalted butter softened, 2 cups packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 3 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Place dates, sugar, and water in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until dates break down – about 10 minutes. Stir often with a wooden spoon to help break up the dates. Mixture will resemble a thick jam. Stir in nuts and cool completely.
Meanwhile, place butter, brown sugar and white sugar in a bowl. Mix well with an electric mixer. Add eggs and vanilla, continue to combine well.
Mix together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a separate bowl. Gradually add these dry ingredients to the creamed mixture beating after each addition to fully incorporate.
Divide dough into two pieces. On a well-floured surface, roll out each portion of dough into a large rectangle measuring roughly 10 x 15 inches, 1/4 inch thick. Spread half of the date filling across the rolled out dough. Starting with the longer side, roll the dough ‘jelly roll style’. If dough cracks, pinch it back together and continue rolling. At the end, pinch seam to close.
Wrap rolls in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
To bake the cookies, heat oven to 350 degrees. Thinly slice each roll into about 45 cookies.
Place slices onto ungreased or parchment-lined baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake for 13 to 14 minutes until cookies are browned. Cool on wire racks
Well, that’s all for now. We hope you enjoy making these cookies as much as we have over all these years, and we also hope you all have a warm and joyous holiday season.